Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett are here to help you out with all of your Start / Sit needs with a deep rundown of their favorite- and least-favorite plays every single week. This article will be continually updated with news throughout the week, so make sure you keep it locked on our projections and on this column all the way through to kickoff on Sunday.
Start / Sit recommendations for “Shallow” leagues refer to 10-team leagues while “Deep” is 12- or 14-teamers.
Start: Jared Goff vs. Bears
Goff averages 21.6 FPG at home (would rank 5th-best if over the full season) but only 12.3 FPG on the road (would rank 33rd). So, here’s some good news – Goff plays at home this week. And better yet, he’s at home against a Bears defense that’s given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing QBs (22.4) since they traded away DE Robert Quinn and LB Roquan Smith in Week 9. Given Goff’s home/road splits and the plus matchup, he can be safely started this week as a mid-range to low-end QB1. [SB]
Start: Gardner Minshew vs. Saints
Since entering the league in 2019, Minshew averages 18.1 fantasy points per start, which is more than what Justin Herbert (17.0) is giving you this year. And in two career starts with Philadelphia’s first-string offense, Minshew averages 21.8 FPG and 0.64 fantasy points per dropback (would rank above Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes). Up against a Saints defense that ranks perfectly neutral in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+0.4), I like Minshew as a low-end QB1 this week — presuming, of course, he starts (Jalen Hurts practiced on Thursday). [SB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Teddy Bridgewater at Patriots
Tua suffered his third concussion of the year last week, leaving the Dolphins with Teddy Bridgewater as their starter with their playoff chances hanging in the balance.
Bridgewater has made two relief appearances this season and one start, which he left after one snap. In his two games out of the bullpen, Bridgewater completed 37-of-57 (65%) for 522 yards, 3 TDs, and 3 INTs in what amounted to 5.5 quarters of work. Just like how Tua plays, Bridgewater funneled targets to Tyreek Hill (20) and Jaylen Waddle (10) en route to Bridgewater scoring 32 fantasy points across those two relief appearances.
It’s a tiny sample of just 62 dropbacks, but Bridgewater’s 0.52 fantasy points per dropback isn’t too far off from where Tua has been all season (0.56 FP/DB).
This is a brutal week for QBs with so many injuries and dead offenses. The Dolphins have the weapons to shred the Patriots secondary, leaving Bridgewater right on the QB1 line for finals week. We like him more than the other fringe streamers du jour like – Carson Wentz, Brock Purdy, Mike White, and Mac Jones. [GB]
Start: Travis Etienne at Texans
Etienne has seemingly struggled throughout Trevor Lawrence’s recent hot streak, averaging just 10.0 FPG over his last 5 full games (down from 23.9 over his previous 3 games). But then again, he’s cleared 100 YFS in back-to-back games. And his usage – even during this recent cold-streak – has been among the best in the league. Since Week 10, and excluding Week 12 due to injury, Etienne has played on 76% of the snaps (4th-most) while handling 81% of the team’s backfield XFP (2nd-most).
Further, Etienne has also been saddled with the position’s toughest strength of schedule in recent weeks – 5 of the last 6 defenses he’s faced over this span rank top-12 by rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs. But good news – this week he gets a best possible matchup, favored by 4.5-points up against the league’s top run funnel defense; against QBs the Texans rank 8th-best in opposing passer rating (84.4) and 3rd-best in passing FPG allowed (11.7), but against RBs they rank 4th-worst in YPC allowed (5.09) and worst by rushing FPG allowed (21.2). [SB]
Start: Cam Akers at Chargers
Cam Akers has come roaring to life for 64/285/6 on the ground over the last month in one of the most bizarre turnaround seasons I can remember. Akers was practically left for dead 10 weeks ago. In this hot stretch, Akers has gained 5+ yards on 42% of his carries – which is a far cry from where he was in his previous nine games (30% of carries gained 5+ yards).
Not only is he seeing a bit better run blocking, we are starting to see some of the athleticism return after his Achilles’ tear. Akers has forced 0.28 missed tackles per carry over his last four games, compared to just 0.17 MTF/carry in Weeks 1-12.
Now, he is all set up in a dream matchup against a Chargers run defense we have been targeting all season (LA is allowing 5.48 YPC - most). I can’t believe I am saying this… but Cam freakin’ Akers is a top-12 play at the position this weekend. [GB]
Start: Brian Robinson vs. Browns
With Antonio Gibson (knee) limited or out this week, Robinson moves up as one of the best RB2 plays on the championship slate. If Gibson misses, then Robinson will turn into an every-down bell cow against one of the best matchups for running backs. Washington are home-favorites against Cleveland’s bottom-5 run defense that is allowing 5.24 YPC (third-worst) and 117.3 rushing yards per game (sixth-worst). [GB]
Start: Miles Sanders vs. Saints
NOTE: Jalen Hurts practiced on Thursday.
Although the absence of Jalen Hurts undoubtedly hurts the offense as a whole, it may actually represent a boon to Sanders from a fantasy perspective. Because over the past two seasons, Sanders averages 24.5 touches per game and 4.5 red zone carries per game with Gardner Minshew under center. But with Hurts, that drops to just 14.8 touches per game and 2.0 red zone carries per game.
Without their star QB, the Eagles may be more likely to lean heavier on their ground game, and especially near the end zone, where Hurts has 20 carries inside the 5-yard-line (2nd-most among all players, 2X as much as Sanders). Favored by 6.5-points up against a neutral-at-worst New Orleans run defense, I like Sanders this week as a fringe-RB1. [SB]
Start: A.J. Dillon vs. Vikings
Over his last 3 games, Aaron Jones has played on just 38% (Week 13), 56% (Week 15), and then (Week 16) 38% of the team’s snaps. And, keep in mind, that 56% snap share is artificially inflated by Dillon missing all of the 4th quarter while being evaluated for a possible concussion. We were told last year Dillon was specifically drafted for these late-season cold-weather games. So, maybe it’s not too surprising Dillon continues to see more work at Jones’ expense.
Although Dillon’s usage has been strong (63% snap share his last two full games) his raw volume hasn’t been quite as good – he hasn’t finished top-15 in XFP since Week 9. But then again, that hasn’t seemed to slow him down – he’s scored a touchdown in 4 straight games, and averages 18.4 FPG over this span (6th-most).
The Vikings are definitely much worse against the pass than they are against the run, but they have given up the 10th-most FPG to opposing RBs over the last 5 weeks (24.3). And this game should be ripe with scoring opportunities for Dillon – Green Bay’s 25.75-point implied total is +23% better than their season-long average by points scored per game.
So, given all this, I’d be happy to start Dillon as a mid-range RB2 this week. And – depending on Jones’ status (currently limited in practice with knee and ankle injuries) – he could be a must-start RB1. [SB]
Sit: Dolphins RBs at Patriots
Once again, the Dolphins backfield turned back into being unpredictable last week with Jeff Wilson playing through a hip injury. Wilson took the slight lead in this backfield in Week 16, seeing 9 carries to Raheem Mostert’s 8. Wilson played on 60% of the snaps while Mostert was at 52%. Wilson got three red-zone snaps and Mostert got two.
This backfield looks like a direct split, and to make matters worse, this is a bottom-5 matchup. The Patriots are allowing 3.82 YPC (fourth-fewest) and have been especially stout as of late, allowing a 35% success rate (third-lowest) over the last 10 weeks. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Tyler Allgeier vs. Cardinals
Tyler Allgeier this season:— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 28, 2022
-PFF rushing grade: 86.8 (No. 7 among 40 running backs with 100-plus carries)
-Yards per carry: 4.9 (tied for No. 7)
-Yards after contact per carry: 3.5 (tied for No. 6)
-Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.25 (tied for No. 5)
Allgeier has exceeded 100 YFS in back-to-back games, averaging 17.5 carries, 3.0 targets, 16.3 XFP (10th-most), and 18.2 FPG (9th-most) over this span. Granted, he’s only seen 52% of the team’s backfield XFP over this stretch, but that’s also up from 39% across the first 14 weeks of the season. Conversely, Cordarrelle Patterson has fallen from 52% to just 35%.
Allgeier gets near-ideal gamescript this week (favored by 4.0 points), plus a top matchup – Arizona has given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing RBs (26.6). He still doesn’t feel very safe to me, but he’s definitely playable if you’re desperate, as a fringe RB2. [SB]
Start: Jerry Jeudy at Chiefs
The only bright spot for the Broncos season right now is Jerry Jeudy – who has quietly racked up 25/331/3 over the last month since returning from injury. Jeudy is also playing way more outside WR, even with Courtland Sutton back last week.
In Week 16, Jeudy ran 87% of his routes lined up outside – which is a big departure from where he was early in the season. Jeudy was in the slot 53% of the time to begin his season in Weeks 1-10. Jeudy getting a ton of burn as an outside wide receiver greatly increases his upside because he will naturally see more targets down the field as opposed to mainly in the middle of the field.
Jeudy has out-targeted Sutton by a 43 to 34 margin in their last five full games together, giving him the edge as a strong WR2 in PPR formats for championship week. [GB]
Start: Garrett Wilson at Seahawks
Wilson has an absolutely brutal matchup this week, up against a Seahawks defense ranking 2nd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (-5.1) and best overall in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (11.6). This is important. This matters. But it doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that Zach Wilson will be moving back to the bench this week. [SB]
Garrett Wilson w/out Zach Wilson— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 27, 2022
10.3 targets per game
9.2 first read targets per game
111.0 air yards per game
If over the full season, those numbers would rank:
Sit: Davante Adams vs. 49ers
With Derek Carr benched for Jarrett Stidham, we’ve bumped Adams down to the low-end WR1-range in our rankings. So, definitely DO NOT SIT Adams this week. But there is a chance you may have to. On Wednesday Ian Rapoport reported, “Derek Carr won’t play [this Sunday] as some vets take a step back.” I’m not exactly sure what this means but it’s possible he’s implying veterans like Adams and Josh Jacobs may be on a snap-count this week. So be sure to monitor all reports, rumors, and other late-breaking news on Sunday morning. And be prepared to have a backup plan just in case. [SB]
Start: Drake London vs. Cardinals
It’s been a long journey to get here, but at least we are getting Drake London peppered with targets to close out the season. London has a ridiculous 35% target share with Desmond Ridder over the last two weeks, and has been targeted on a whopping 35% of his routes with Kyle Pitts sidelined since Week 12.
Just for reference of how insane that is, Tyreek Hill leads all players in targets per route run (34%) on the season.
Even with Ridder looking shaky as a passer, that level of volume puts London on the WR2 radar. The Cardinals are missing their top CB Byron Murphy (I.R.), further adding to the appeal. [GB]
Start: Mike Evans vs. Panthers
I think this is the first time that I have written up Mike Evans for start/sit since the first few weeks of the season, and it’s for good reason! This Bucs’ offense is completely broken and it has dragged Evans down for pretty much all of the back half of this season.
Evans’ opportunity in this offense is top-8 among WRs, but he just routinely fails to cash in.
Mike Evans is WR8 by XFP (expected fantasy points) and is 6th in air yards per game – but only the WR32 by actual PPR points per game and he’s 25th among all players in receiving yards per game.— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 29, 2022
Would be really sweet if the regression finally hit this week
With stud CB Jaycee Horn (wrist) sidelined this week, Evans has his best matchup in a long time to finally realize some of the opportunity coming his way. I realize it’s extremely uncomfortable, but Evans is in the mix as one of the better upside WR2 plays on the week. [GB]
Sit: Amari Cooper at Commanders
The Browns have straight up struggled with Deshaun Watson under center, pretty much killing this entire offense for fantasy. There is simply a massive difference between Watson and Jacoby Brissett right now.
Over the last four weeks, the Browns have scored on just 21.4% of their possessions (31st) and they are averaging 25.6 yards gained per possession (27th). Compare that to Weeks 1-12 with Jacoby Brissett, where they scored on 40.2% of their possessions (10th-best rate) and averaged 35.9 yards gained per possession (fourth-best).
Watson’s struggles have fallen onto his pass catchers as a result. Just 78.7% of Deshaun Watson’s passes have been catchable – which is the sixth-lowest rate among 42 qualifying QBs.
Cooper has finished as the WR54 > WR61 > WR44 > WR32 in four starts with Watson after notching seven top-25 weeks in 11 starts with Brissett, leaving him as a low-floor WR3 for championship week. [GB]
Start: Evan Engram at Texans
Engram has finished top-3 among all TEs in targets and top-5 in receiving yards in each of his last three games. Over this span, he has 3X as many receiving yards as Davante Adams. And he averages 10.7 targets, 16.9 XFP, 3.50 YPRR, 112.3 receiving yards, and 23.9 FPG. Among all wide receivers over this stretch, those numbers rank: 5th-best, 7th-best, 3rd-best, 3rd-best, and 2nd-best.
So, yes, you’re definitely starting him this week, up against a Texans defense that’s given up 26.8% of their total receiving fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs (6th-most). We currently have him projected for 12.3 fantasy points, which ranks 2nd-most among TEs and would rank 23rd-most among WRs. [SB]
Start: Pat Freiermuth at Ravens
After playing on just 56% of the snaps in three-straight games while dealing with an apparent foot injury, Pat Freiermuth returned to being a full-time player in Week 16 with an 81% snap share. Freiermuth ran a route on 88% of the pass plays last week and had 7/66 receiving (8 targets) as the result. With that type of elite usage, we are pushing Freiermuth right back up into the top-10 at the position. [GB]
Start: Tyler Higbee at Chargers
Baker Mayfield had one of the most unexpected performances of the season last week, dicing the Broncos for 230 yards and 2 TDs on just 28 throws. Mayfield did most of his damage with Tyler Higbee, who quietly has 13/121/3 on 16 targets over the last two weeks. Mayfield has completely revived Higbee’s role. Last week, Higbee ran a route on 79% of the pass plays, his highest rate since Matthew Stafford got hurt in Week 11.
Now back in a full-time role, Higbee is a top-10 tight end play this week against a Chargers secondary that is allowing 8.73 yards per target to TEs (third-most) and may be without S Derwin James (concussion). [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Jelani Woods at Giants
Over Indianapolis’ last 4 games, Jelani Woods has run a route on 69%, 28%, 19%, and then (last week) 58% of the team's dropbacks. Kylen Granson sat out in the first and last games within this sample, and in those games, Woods averaged 7.0 targets and 70.5 YPG. So, if Granson sits out again this week, he’d be in play as a high-end TE2 with underrated upside, up against a Giants defense that just gave up 35.9 fantasy points to T.J. Hockenson. [SB]